SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired a minor-league pitcher with an inspiring back story.
When he was just 9 years old, Jeff Belge was involved in a freak accident that left him legally blind.
According to Syracuse.com, Belge was skipping rocks with his cousin when a piece of shale flew straight into his right eye, piercing his cornea. The outlet said two surgeries and 18 stitches were needed to repair the shattered cornea.
However, the fight was far from over as several years later, Belge’s left eye began reacting to the trauma of his right eye. Leading him to develop an autoimmune disease known as sympathetic ophthalmia.
Belge began to complain about the vision in his left eye becoming blurred. Luckily, medication and steroids were able to prevent his left eye from going blind as well, Syracuse.com stated.
Back in 2014, he told the outlet that he could only see outlines of objects and only a few colors in his right eye. He also added that the vision in his right eye was 20/300 to 20/400.
Despite all his setbacks, he never lost hope and was able to find success last season when he pitched in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system.
Now, the 25-year-old is heading to Tampa Bay after the Rays traded right-handed pitcher J.P. Feyereisen to the Dodgers in exchange for Belge.
In 2019, Belge was drafted by the Dodgers in the 18th round after attending St. John’s University.
While on the mound, the left-handed reliever can be seen wearing protective glasses but said the only thing he focuses on while pitching is living his dream.
“I find ways around it. It doesn’t really bother me,” Belge told the New York Post. “It’s just me having a dream and following it. It’s a bump along the way I had to get over.”
Belge is set to pitch for the Rays at the Double-A level next season.